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The aim of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme is to reduce the number of people who develop invasive cervical cancer, as well as the number of people who die from it. Regular screening will help to identify and treat cervical cell abnormalities
which might otherwise develop into invasive cancer. 

The NHS Cervical Screening Programme in England invites women to attend routine cervical screening appointments every:

  • 3 years for women age 25-49
  • 5 years for women age 50-64

The NHS Cervical Screening Programmes in Wales invites women to attend routine cervical screening appointments every:

  • 5 years for women age 25-64 who have tested negative for HPV
  • Those who are identified as having HPV will be followed up closely


One year net survival for patients diagnosed with stage 1 cervical cancer, in England, is 96% compared to 50% for those diagnosed at stage four. According to PHE, it is estimated that cervical screening saves 5,000 lives a year in the UK.

Different gender identities

All individuals who have a cervix are also eligible for cervical screening within the above age groups. At present, people with a cervix who are registered as ‘male’ with their GP are not invited for screening by the National Cervical Screening Programme.
This is also true of any individual who does not register their identity as a woman, for example non-binary and intersex individuals.

In these cases, it is vital that screening invitations should be sent by GP practices or healthcare teams managing gender reassignments.

Screening results

In 2019, high-risk HPV tests replaced cytology testing as the primary test in cervical screening. Over 85-90% of women will receive a negative high-risk HPV result and will be returned to routine recall. 

A cytology test is only performed if high-risk HPV is detected in the first instance. If high-risk HPV is detected and there are no abnormal cells, patients will be asked to attend a follow-up screening in 12 months to determine if the HPV infection has
cleared itself. If cell abnormalities are found, patients will be referred to colposcopy. 

For further information on the HPV primary testing pathway, click here.

Supporting patients

With the introduction of HPV testing, positive test results have increased anxiety amongst women due to a lack of knowledge about the HPV. Therefore, it is important patients are well informed about HPV during their cervical screening appointment.


Dr Rebecca Leon, GatewayC GP Lead, speaks to Kate Sanger from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust about how primary care professionals can support women with abnormal test results.

Providing patients with information about their potential screening results and the next steps can help them feel at ease, including who they can speak to for further support. They can also be signposted to charities, such as Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, if they are worried about their results.


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Additional resources

Link: About the NHS Screening programmes, e-Learning for Healthcare
Link: Cervical screening: programme overview, Public Health England (2021)
Link: Clinical Knowledge Summaries – Cervical screening, NICE (2021)
Link: Primary Care Good Practice Guide: Cervical Screening, Cancer Research UK (2021)
Link: Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Cervical Screening and Cervical Cancer, Royal College of Nursing (2020)
Link: Cervical screening: cervical sample taker training, Public Health England (2020)
Link: What GPs need to know about the introduction of primary HPV testing in cervical screening, Public Health England (2017)
Link: PHE to launch national cervical screening campaign in March 2019, Public Health England (2018)
Link: Mr Brett Winter-Roach’s extra tips regarding cervical screening

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